You Experience #1 – No Keyboard
The keyboard to a computer is like the steering wheel to a car, or money to a wallet. They’re all quickly disappearing. It’s for the best too. Reduction of friction between intent, interaction and fulfillment creates new, unheard of business opportunities in diverse areas. The interface to computing and the network will be visual, audible, sensitive or in one word ‘cognitive’. We no longer have to learn how computers work and interact with them on their terms. Now we interact naturally through speech, touch and gestures and the computer learns to understand how it can serve us, constantly enhancing its usefulness. Enterprises that know how to take advantage of these new ways of customer interaction could equally reposition their existing business and create disruptive new models. ‘Contact’ has become more relevant than ‘content’.
Close your eyes and imagine this scenario of the not too distant future. Does your self-driving car still have a steering wheel and does your computer still have a keyboard? The answer probably is no. The impact can hardly be overestimated, since all of our current man-machine interfaces are involved in important processes like paying, transportation, and the production and consumption of information. When all these processes change, humanity as a whole changes in a way as well. From a business perspective, technology reduces or extremely simplifies interfaces, leading to easier contact and a radically different view on interaction and value, while speeding up everything in the process.
By electrifying the keyboard with the invention of the modern telegraph around 1870, we were for the first time able to teleprint messages over long distances without the interface of a Morse Code key slowing us down. Digitizing the keyboard created the computer terminal by which man could exercise computing power. ‘Glassing’ the keyboard made the computer mobile and ubiquitous.
The next step will be ‘gluing’ the keyboard to any surface or object, creating new means for interaction based on touch and sense, in effect rendering the keyboard itself useless. The disappearance of the keyboard is part of the ongoing digitization and disappearance of interfaces seen in many other areas, generally speeding up processes as a result.
Amazon’s dash buttons are an excellent example of disappearing interfaces. Stick one to your washing machine and with one click you have ordered replenishment of washing powder, soon to arrive. Connect another dash button to your inventory of favorite soft drinks and you will never run out. No computers or tablets, no apps or complexity and another need met at the press of a button.
If the old paradigm was text and keyboards, the new one will be visual, audible, sensitive, and sensorized. An appetite for connecting things and sensors expands the boundaries of an enterprise. This direct linkage of conventional information systems with new data sources will create all kinds of interface-less, frictionless business processes with a significant increase of speed as a result. More than that, it will create a new data explosion, business can leverage inside and across the boundaries of the enterprise.
Sure, we all get the potential (or ramifications) by now of Google Glass, and Apple’s Watch. But specifically leveraging the variety of data, existing enterprise data combined with sensor or location data will become extremely valuable and potentially disruptive.
Real-time information from wearable devices — such as Microsoft’s Band, just to name one— combined with electronic patient records for instance, enables a new style of healthcare that not only responds to emergencies when things have gone wrong in our bodies but accurately predict events and prevent things from going wrong early on. Predictive and prescriptive analytics in many other sectors will become the dominant way to organize maintenance of all kinds of equipment and installations, spectacularly improving the leverage and availability of assets.
The business focus will be on serving customers and employees in their mobile moments of need, removing any friction that would stop them from getting their products and services. Just taking a product in your hands becomes a new customer touch point, creating valuable information through contact. Contact becomes the new content.
And contact can be anywhere. Remember, it’s all about sweating the assets. It may simply involve an iBeacon recognizing a smart phone, enabling a direct approach to a customer in a store, and to offer specific promotions based on their purchase history. It could also recognize somebody lifting a product from the shelf in a supermarket.
Technology that sends information through the human body to a smart phone after touching an object is already available (using BodyCom technology). The movement of a postal package for instance, is enough to transfer information about delivery completion. Advanced body- and sense- enabled technologies are making QR-codes obsolete. Printed electronics (smart paper) are paving the path for new direct interaction where the only interface that remains is the touch of a finger to the object of interest.
In a world with fewer keyboards, a computing device no longer takes the center-stage. It redefines the way we interact, with technology silently morphing itself to whatever we need. It creates an ambient style of intelligence that is always there when we need it, yet never gets in the way of what we want to accomplish. Amazon’s speech recognizing appliance Echo, with the ever so lovely digital assistant Alexa, always listening and ready to respond to our questions, is a good example of such ambient computing. Apple TV with Siri or Microsoft’s Xbox with Cortana are similar attempts to make interfaces disappear and serve our needs through ambient intelligence that understands our language and listens to us.
Enterprises that get this will be superior in earning the attention of their customers, employees, and partners. No keyboard, no interface, no friction.
Do we have contact now?